Best known as EastEnders' Frankie Lewis, actress Rose Ayling-Ellis wants to shatter some of the common misconceptions about those who are hard of hearing, as Strictly Come Dancing’s first-ever deaf contestant.
Saturday night saw Rose take to the dance floor with partner Giovanni Pernice for the first time, impressing fans and judges with her moves.
Here Rose, 26, tells us what advice her EastEnders co-stars have given her on being part of Strictly...
What made you want to appear on Strictly?
"Being the first deaf person on Strictly, I feel I’ve got a purpose and that it’s a good chance to challenge the assumptions of what deaf people can and can’t do. A lot of people think deaf people can’t hear music, enjoy music or enjoy dancing - I thought Strictly would be a good platform for me to break that stereotype."
What dance are you most nervous about? And what dance are you most looking forward to?
"I'm nervous about the jive, because it’s so fast. It involves a lot of jumping, and if I’m jumping and kicking non-stop, I then have to catch my breath. The dance I’m most keen to do is probably the tango, because it’s very different from who I am. It’s a very sassy sort of dance, and that’s not me - I’m normally so polite! I don’t do sexy, so it will be a challenge for me to reveal that side!"
Has anyone from the EastEnders cast, who’s appeared on Strictly, given you any advice?
"I’ve had advice from Natalie [Cassidy], who plays Sonia, who said be comfortable in what you wear, so if anything feels too long, just say: ‘Oh, can I have it a bit shorter’. Emma [Barton], who plays Honey, told me just to be myself and just to be who I am, and if I feel shy and awkward, just to be myself.
"The first person I told on EastEnders was Danny [Dyer], and he was incredibly proud. And then I told Maddy [Hill] and then I told Kellie [Bright], and they’re all so, so excited for me. They want to [come down to support me], but because of COVID, we don’t know."
How do you feel about being the bookies’ favourite to win?
"What?! Oh my God! Oh, I didn’t know that. I think I’m just going to try my best and see how it goes. Just take one day at a time, one weekend at a time, and see how it goes."
How are you feeling about having your routines critiqued by the Strictly judges?
"I went to art university and art college and I also do acting, so criticism is the only way that you can get better. If no one tells you, how can you improve?"
What do you hope your appearance on Strictly will do for the deaf community?
"The response from the deaf community has been very positive and it will also be interesting to see what the reaction from a hearing audience will be like. I hope a lot of good will come from my doing Strictly; that people’s attitudes will change and that the experiences of deaf people will improve, particularly in this industry."
Strictly Come Dancing airs on Saturdays at 7pm on BBC1.
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